skip to main content

Search for: All records

Creators/Authors contains: "Hickerson, Michael J."

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. Abstract

    Understanding global patterns of genetic diversity is essential for describing, monitoring, and preserving life on Earth. To date, efforts to map macrogenetic patterns have been restricted to vertebrates, which comprise only a small fraction of Earth’s biodiversity. Here, we construct a global map of predicted insect mitochondrial genetic diversity from cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 sequences, derived from open data. We calculate the mitochondrial genetic diversity mean and genetic diversity evenness of insect assemblages across the globe, identify their environmental correlates, and make predictions of mitochondrial genetic diversity levels in unsampled areas based on environmental data. Using a large single-locus genetic dataset of over 2 million globally distributed and georeferenced mtDNA sequences, we find that mitochondrial genetic diversity evenness follows a quadratic latitudinal gradient peaking in the subtropics. Both mitochondrial genetic diversity mean and evenness positively correlate with seasonally hot temperatures, as well as climate stability since the last glacial maximum. Our models explain 27.9% and 24.0% of the observed variation in mitochondrial genetic diversity mean and evenness in insects, respectively, making an important step towards understanding global biodiversity patterns in the most diverse animal taxon.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Hybrid zones are important windows into the evolutionary dynamics of populations, revealing how processes like introgression and adaptation structure population genomic variation. Importantly, they are useful for understanding speciation and how species respond to their environments. Here, we investigate two closely related sea star species,Asterias rubensandA. forbesi, distributed along rocky European and North American coastlines of the North Atlantic, and use genome‐wide molecular markers to infer the distribution of genomic variation within and between species in this group. Using genomic data and environmental niche modelling, we document hybridization occurring between northern New England and the southern Canadian Maritimes. We investigate the factors that maintain this hybrid zone, as well as the environmental variables that putatively drive selection within and between species. We find that the two species differ in their environmental niche breadth;Asterias forbesidisplays a relatively narrow environmental niche while conversely,A. rubenshas a wider niche breadth. Species distribution models accurately predict hybrids to occur within environmental niche overlap, thereby suggesting environmental selection plays an important role in the maintenance of the hybrid zone. Our results imply that the distribution of genomic variation in North Atlantic sea stars is influenced by the environment, which will be crucial to consider as the climate changes.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract Aim

    Quantifying abundance distributions is critical for understanding both how communities assemble, and how community structure varies through time and space, yet estimating abundances requires considerable investment in fieldwork. Community‐level population genetic data potentially offer a powerful way to indirectly infer richness, abundance and the history of accumulation of biodiversity within a community. Here we introduce a joint model linking neutral community assembly and comparative phylogeography to generate both community‐level richness, abundance and genetic variation under a neutral model, capturing both equilibrium and non‐equilibrium dynamics.




    Our model combines a forward‐time individual‐based community assembly process with a rescaled backward‐time neutral coalescent model of multi‐taxa population genetics. We explore general dynamics of genetic and abundance‐based summary statistics and use approximate Bayesian computation (ABC) to estimate parameters underlying the model of island community assembly. Finally, we demonstrate two applications of the model using community‐scale mtDNAsequence data and densely sampled abundances of an arachnid community on La Réunion. First, we use genetic data alone to estimate a summary of the abundance distribution, ground‐truthing this against the observed abundances. Then, we jointly use the observed genetic data and abundances to estimate the proximity of the community to equilibrium.


    Simulation experiments of ourABCprocedure demonstrate that coupling abundance with genetic data leads to improved accuracy and precision of model parameter estimates compared with using abundance‐only data. We further demonstrate reasonable precision and accuracy in estimating a metric underlying the shape of the abundance distribution, temporal progress towards local equilibrium and several key parameters of the community assembly process. For the insular arachnid assemblage, we find the joint distribution of genetic diversity and abundance approaches equilibrium expectations, and that the Shannon entropy of the observed abundances can be estimated using genetic data alone.

    Main conclusions

    The framework that we present unifies neutral community assembly and comparative phylogeography to characterize the community‐level distribution of both abundance and genetic variation through time, providing a resource that should greatly enhance understanding of both the processes structuring ecological communities and the associated aggregate demographic histories.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Biodiversity accumulates hierarchically by means of ecological and evolutionary processes and feedbacks. Within ecological communities drift, dispersal, speciation, and selection operate simultaneously to shape patterns of biodiversity. Reconciling the relative importance of these is hindered by current models and inference methods, which tend to focus on a subset of processes and their resulting predictions. Here we introduce massive ecoevolutionary synthesis simulations (MESS), a unified mechanistic model of community assembly, rooted in classic island biogeography theory, which makes temporally explicit joint predictions across three biodiversity data axes: (i) species richness and abundances, (ii) population genetic diversities, and (iii) trait variation in a phylogenetic context. Using simulations we demonstrate that each data axis captures information at different timescales, and that integrating these axes enables discriminating among previously unidentifiable community assembly models. MESS is unique in generating predictions of community‐scale genetic diversity, and in characterizing joint patterns of genetic diversity, abundance, and trait values. MESS unlocks the full potential for investigation of biodiversity processes using multidimensional community data including a genetic component, such as might be produced by contemporary eDNA or metabarcoding studies. We combine MESS with supervised machine learning to fit the parameters of the model to real data and infer processes underlying how biodiversity accumulates, using communities of tropical trees, arthropods, and gastropods as case studies that span a range of data availability scenarios, and spatial and taxonomic scales.

    more » « less